What is H. Pylori and How Does it Impede Adequate Digestion?
Fatigue, digestive issues, and weight loss resistance - could it be related to an infection in your gut?
My short answer is ABSOLUTELY! H. Pylori is one of the most common imbalances I see in my practice - and it can lead to devastating outcomes when left unattended. This fairly common bacteria resides in approximately 50% of the world’s population. Although many carriers are asymptomatic, H. pylori is known to play a causative role in gastric ulcers, chronic gastritis, and even stomach cancer. Additionally, and what I find to be the case with many of my clients through the GI Map test, is that it can have devastating effects on gut health which ultimately impact every system in the body. H. Pylori can be the root cause of digestive symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, SIBO, symptoms of IBS, and nutrient deficiencies. Let me explain how this one bacteria can cause a downstream effect of catastrophe in the gut.
1. H. Pylori causes damage to the stomach lining and can reduce stomach acid.
Stomach acid is crucial for proper digestion. Adequate HCL production is necessary for the breakdown of protein, or amino acids, and it sets the stage for proper signaling of bile and pancreatic enzymes that further breakdown the foods you eat. Low levels of stomach acid and inadequate digestion ultimately set the stage for inadequate uptake of amino acids. This leads to an inability to produce proteins throughout the body, which has systemic, or body wide, ramifications. Think about it. You need protein, or amino acids for the following bodily functions:
- Hemoglobin (Hello fatigue! Think about iron and iron stores)
- All enzymes (Energy production and detoxification pathways require these)
- Antibodies (Immunity may take a hit)
- Hormones (Think insulin and blood sugar balance, or thyroid and the impact on fatigue and weight)
- Neurotransmitters (for mood, motivation and sleep)
This is a short list, and if poor digestion goes on for too long. You will feel it, well beyond the GI tract.
2. Nutrient Deficiencies
Low stomach acid can lead to several nutrient deficiencies.
Cobalamin (vitamin B12) deficiency is associated with Helicobacter pylori infection (1).The stomach is lined with parietal cells that produce intrinsic factor, which are necessary for the absorption of B12 further down the digestive tract. H. Pylori can impact these parietal cells, therefore inhibiting adequate absorption of B12.
Low stomach acid, a potential symptom caused by H. Pylori, can cause Vitamin C to be converted into its inactive form. Numerous clinical reports show that ascorbic acid deficiency has been connected with gastritis (2).
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant and has been shown to be lowered in cases of H. Pylori infections, as the infection impacts the mucosal lining where Vitamin E is present (3).
H. Pylori may impede the body's ability to absorb iron (4). This could be as a result of damage caused to gastric tissue.
3. How can you test for H. Pylori?
There are several ways to test for H. Pylori. Your doctor can run a variety of tests, such as blood tests and endoscopy. At Functional Nutrition of Wisconsin, I run a GI MAP non-invasive stool test to get a comprehensive look at what's going on with the microbiome and intestinal health markers.
4. What do I do if I have H. Pylori?
There are a variety of conventional and natural ways to tackle H. Pylori. A conventional doctor may prescribe you antibiotics and proton pump inhibitors - and depending on the severity of your case, this could be right for you. There are plenty of other ways to address H. Pylori with herbs and probiotics, and these methods have little to no side effects.
I commonly use a combination of products and herbs, and encourage clients to retest about 8-12 weeks after the recommended protocol has ended.
1) Mastic Gum - (Pistacia lentiscus) is a resinous substance from a tree native to Greece and has been used for over 2500 years in the Mediterranean where it is chewed like gum for the purpose of ameliorating stomach pain.1 Modern scientific research has validated the antimicrobial properties of mastic gum, with human and in vitro studies showing it to be effective against multiple strains of H. pylori as well as against E. coli and S. aureus.
2) Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) - is a well-established anti-ulcer and mucosal supportive botanical. DGL is a mucilaginous herb that supports healthy intestinal function by coating and soothing the intestinal lining and promoting the healing of ulcers and inflamed tissue. Being ultra-low in glycyrrhizin, DGL exerts its beneficial gastric effects without the potential side-effects of high-dose fullspectrum licorice consumption.
3) Zinc Carnosine - has been shown to have beneficial effects for supporting gastric tissue, such as combating H. pylori, supporting the mucosal layer and protecting against ulceration. This extends to protecting the intestinal lining against damage induced by anti-inflammatory medications often associated with intestinal mucosal damage.
4) Vitamin C - has"anti-H. pylori activity" as well as a role in tissue regeneration. Vitamin C may be effective both restoratively and prophylactically, although more evidence supports the latter. Low levels of vitamin C in serum and gastric juices have been consistently found in subjects with gastritis and peptic ulcers associated with H. pylori. Research indicates a high concentration of vitamin C in gastric juice may inactivate H. pylori urease, an enzyme the organism uses to protect itself against the acidic environment of the stomach, allowing it to colonize.
5) S. boulardii - has been shown to stimulate enzymes of the intestinal brush-border, specifically, sucrase, lactase and maltase. The probiotic properties of this organism include: (a) Binding of enterohaemorrhagic E. coli and Salmonella; (b) Protection of the digestive mucosa; (c) Promotion of growth of lactic acid producing bacteria in the gut; (d) Protection against Clostridium difficile toxins; and (e) Stimulating effects on the intestinal mucosa and mucosal immunity. S. boulardii helps preserve tight junctions in the small intestine, decreases inflammatory cytokine production in the gut, and stimulates increased sIgA levels and immune defense in the gut. Additionally, pathogenic bacteria adhere to S. boulardii in the intestinal lumen, resulting in decreased systemic invasion.
If you are experiencing digestive issues such as reflux, gas, or constipation and want to seek further explanation, reach out for a Discovery Call . You have nothing to lose and everything to gain when it comes to feeling optimal.
In good health,